The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'middle east'
Another place not to visit: Kuwait has banned the use of DSLR cameras in public places except by registered journalists. Compact cameras are exempt from the ban, presumably because banning them would have involved banning most mobile phones.
Restrictions on photography aren't unprecedented for Middle Eastern monarchies. In the United Arab Emirates (which includes Dubai, one of the region's more liberal enclaves), for example, photo-sharing site Flickr is blocked.
Recently, in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia has blocked Facebook, on the grounds that it doesn't conform with the kingdom's conservative Wahhabi Islamist values. (The big surprise: Facebook was apparently not blocked earlier. Given that even the relatively liberal Dubai blocks sites like Flickr, it's surprising that the Saudis have let their subjects wilfully poke each other online for so long.) The ban is said to be temporary; presumably Facebook doesn't usually contravene Wahhabi values.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Palestinian Authority police have arrested an atheist blogger after intelligence officers traced him to an internet café; 26-year-old Walid Husayin could get life in prison for heresy, though the Palestinian equivalent of the Daily Mail readership are calling for him to be put to death:
Husayin used a fake name on his English and Arabic-language blogs and Facebook pages. After his mother discovered articles on atheism on his computer, she canceled his Internet connection in hopes that he would change his mind.
Instead, he began going to an Internet cafe — a move that turned out to be a costly mistake. The owner, Ahmed Abu-Asal, said the blogger aroused suspicion by spending up to seven hours a day in a corner booth. After several months, a cafe worker supplied captured snapshots of his Facebook pages to Palestinian intelligence officials.
Officials monitored him for several weeks and then arrested him on Oct. 31 as he sat in the cafe, said Abu-Asal.Apparently such intense surveillance of heretics is not unusual in the region; intelligence officers in both the relatively liberal West Bank and the hard-line Islamist-dominated Gaza work hard to hunt down dissidents, and even in Egypt, a blogger was charged with atheism in 2007 after intelligence officials monitored his posts.
Planning a public transport system in Jerusalem, holy city of three major religions and bitterly contested territory, involves taking some controversial planning decisions:
Under pressure from the influential and growing ultra-orthodox community, some bus lines in Jerusalem have introduced segregation, with women confined to the rear of the vehicle.
The company earlier distributed a consumer survey asking Jerusalem residents if they were "bothered" that the light railway is to include stops in Arab neighbourhoods en route to connecting to Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. Another question asked: "All passengers, Jews and Arabs, can enter the train freely, without undergoing a security check. Does this bother you?"
A phone carrier in the United Arab Emirates recently pushed out a patch for BlackBerry handsets, which it advertised as a "performance enhancement", but which, on closer examination, turned out to contain a remotely activatable surveillance programme:
The spying program in the patch is switched off by default on installation, but switching it on would be a simple matter of pushing out a command from the server to any device, causing the device to then send a copy of the user’s subsequent e-mail and text messages to the server.I wonder what the story here is; is the UAE's government too cheap to shell out for some of that sweet Nokia Siemens surveillance gear the Iranian government has been reportedly very pleased with? Was the patch planted by other agencies (The Mossad? The Iranian secret service? Organised crime?) Or is Dubai trying to build the world's most elaborate context-based advertising system?
The European Broadcasting Union is threatening to bar Israel's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest because of its "political" lyrics. The song, "Push The Button" by Teapacks, appears to allude to suicide bombings and/or the threat of Iranian nuclear attacks, and possibly mention Israel's nuclear weapons in somewhat ambiguous tones.
The words of the song - in English, French and Hebrew, - have already been interpreted as addressing fears of a strike by Iran as well as attacks by Palestinian militants. In one verse the band sing: "The world is full of terror/ If someone makes an error/ He's gonna blow us up to biddy biddy kingdom come/ There are some crazy rulers they hide and try to fool us/ With demonic, technologic willingness to harm."The lyrics (well, the English ones) are reproduced; the article says it is "an occasionally Queen-like musical blend of rap, rock and more oriental sound", though in my mind, I can hear a faux-Jamaican accent.
It looks like last year's Danish cartoons row may have actually helped Denmark's exports:
While Danish milk products were dumped in the Middle East, fervent rightwing Americans started buying Bang & Olufsen stereos and Lego. In the first quarter of this year Denmark's exports to the US soared 17%. The British writer Christopher Hitchens organised a buy-Danish campaign. Among the thousands of emails sent to Rose was one from an American soldier serving in Iraq. "He told me he was sitting in Iraq, watching a game of football and drinking a can of Carlsberg," Rose said.
Apparently Hamas, the hardline Islamist group forming the Palestinian government, is on the verge of recognising Israel's right to exist, a huge concession coming from a group vowed to annihilate the Jewish state and replace it with an Islamic theocracy. While this won't immediately bring peace to the Middle East, it could be the latest in a long line of initially promising first steps.
A New York artist has created a wearable anti-surveillance outfit with a provocatively Middle-Eastern appearance:
The design of the headdress borrows from Islamic and Hindu fashion to comment on the racial profiling of Arab and Arab-looking citizens that occurred post-9/11. The design of the headdress is thus a contradiction: while its goal is to hide the wearer, it makes the wearer a target of heightened surveillance.
The laser tikka (forehead ornament) is attached to a hooded vest and reflective shawl. The laser is activated by pressing a button on the left shoulder of the vest. When pointed directly into a camera lens, the laser creates a burst of light masking the wearers face. The wearer can also use the reflective cloth to cover the face and head. The aluminized material protects her/him by reflecting any infrared radiation and also disguises the wearer by visually reflecting the surroundings, rendering the wearers identity anonymous.Of course, in jurisdictions where shoot-to-kill policies apply, one wears this at one's own risk.
I wonder how long until the CCTV camera-zapping technology is integrated into thug hoodies or Burberry-print baseball caps?
Speaking of hoodies, someone is now making them for iPods; perfect for your 50 Cent/Lady Sovereign MP3 collection.
The use of Bluetooth-equipped phones to arrange clandestine sexual trysts with strangers may have been a hoax in Britain, but it's alive and well in the United Arab Emirates, where economic liberalism and social conservatism meet head to head:
Many of the city's black-shrouded UAE girls say they cannot check out the latest fashions in Zara or sip a smoothie in a cafe without being bombarded with the phone numbers of hopeful admirers.
Mohammed, 24, does not know how many girlfriends he has had. He prefers expat girls because he can take them to the beach or to parties, but finds Bluetooth useful when pursuing locals.
His flirtations by phone and other means sometimes end in sex. Even with national girls, it is possible to keep it secret: "Hotels, flats, houses, anything - there's always a way," he says. But he wants to marry a virgin eventually: "The girls I have sex with are different from the girls I would marry - these girls want to play around," he says.
Authorities across the Middle East are cracking down on music subcultures: form heavy-metal fans in Morocco to gay disco-dancing "Satanists" in Lebanon to anything to do with Michael Jackson in Saudi Arabia.
Among the objects exhibited in court as being contrary to good morals was a black T-shirt with heavy metal symbols on it. This prompted the judge to comment that "normal people go to concerts in a suit and tie".
Lebanese devil worshippers are easily recognised. According to one security official, they are young men with long hair and beards who "listen to hard rock music, drink mind-altering alcoholic cocktails and take off their black shirts, dancing bare-chested".
What is probably the most bizarre heavy-metal-and-satanism case occurred in Egypt in 1997 when state security police, armed with machine guns and satanically clad in masks and black uniforms, dragged about 70 youngsters - some as young as 16 - from their beds in a series of dawn raids. They took away posters from bedroom walls, CDs and tapes ranging from Guns 'n' Roses to Beethoven's fifth symphony and, in one household, a black t-shirt with a Bugs Bunny design.
"In the 1980s," Mohammed continued, "Saudis started dressing like [Michael Jackson], copying his hairstyle and doing moonwalks on the roundabouts. This is the reason most people give me about why his stuff is not allowed here.
Read: The Childhood Origins of Terrorism, an essay which suggests that Islamic Fundamentalist extremism and terrorism are products of abusive child-rearing practices found in parts of the Middle East, and the resultant culture of self-loathing and violent absolutism, and draws comparisons between the psychologies of terrorists and serial killers. Which sort of makes sense, though sounds suspiciously Freudian in places. (via FmH)